The University of Texas School of Law (tied for 16th on your U.S. News scorecards) is apparently not content with their status. They want to be elite. “They’re smart, not dumb, like everybody thinks. They’re smart and they want respect Michael!”
They think they’ve found just the right person to take them to the next level: Dean Lawrence Sager has promised to add $200 million to the UT-Law endowment by 2014. That would nearly double the school’s current endowment, according to the Austin-American Statesman.
Sager, 67, was recruited to UT in 2002 in part for his prowess in building a law school’s reputation from the ground up — something he did in his previous job at New York University’s law school. That reputation is packaged, almost disguised, by a disarming personality as exuberant as the tangled head of hair that often looks as if it will take flight. Law school staffers say they love his frequently wicked humor.
Hair and humor is all good, but $200 million? In this market? It sounds like a tough sell.
And the reason for this push, after the jump.
The stated goal of the campaign is to move UT-Law into the top ten in the U.S. News rankings:
Hitting his $200 million target, Sager says, is crucial to attracting top faculty and the best students, essential ingredients in his drive to elevate the school from 16th in annual U.S. News and World Report rankings to the Top 10, alongside law schools such as Yale, Harvard and Stanford. For the past 20 years, UT School of Law has maintained a ranking in the Top 20 but never cracked the Top 10.
So, we now live in a world where the size of your endowment directly correlates to the quality of your education? It’s not clear that even Sager believes that:
“What a good law school does,” Sager said, “is it incubates a habit of mind that says when making judgments about the right course of action, you are driven not by passion but by reason.”
It does that, he said, by creating an environment where “discourse and exchange” can thrive. “I think in a specific way this is what drew me to law school,” he said, “this sense of seriousness about language and ideas.”
Judgment, reason, ideas … you can’t really purchase these law school characteristics.
But you need to pay top faculty top dollar, And U.S. News cares about how much you are spending, and many law students reflexively do whatever U.S. News tells them to do. So:
“You find yourself worrying about the rankings much too much, but you can’t not care about these rankings,” Sager said. “They affect your ability to attract the best students and faculty. One of the key ways to affect those rankings is to spend more money.”
You almost feel bad for Sager. He knows that you can’t simply buy a school into the elite, yet he is charged with doing just that, during an global economic crisis at that.
We hope he succeeds. The comedic value of Texans making fun of “elites” when they themselves are well-heeled elites will be worth its weight in
Update: Speaking of UT Law, they’re hosting a very interesting symposium in January 2009, “The Rise of Appellate Litigators and State Solicitors General.” It’s timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Office of Texas Solicitor General. More details here.
Law school dean trying to break into Top 10 rankings [Austin-American Statesman]
Texas to Raise $200m to Crack U.S. News Top 10 [Tax Prof Blog]